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Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1953 No. 87 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


The omission of an improvement in assessing real property may be corrected by first, the county assessor and secondly, by the county board of equalization.

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                                                                    July 13, 1953

Honorable E. C. Huntley
Washington State Tax Commission
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 87

Dear Sir:

            You request our opinion whether:

            the omission of an improvement in assessing real property may be corrected.

            We conclude:

            such an omission should first be corrected by the assessor as "omitted property" and if not by him, by the County Board of Equalization.


            Generally there are, for tax purposes, two classes of property‑-real and personal.  When land and the improvements thereon rest in the same ownership, the improvements under RCW 84.04.090 (PTC sec. 44) are a part of the land.  The land and the improvements for purposes of taxation are normally but one parcel of real estate and only one tax may be levied thereon.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            The existence of improvements upon land formerly related solely tovaluation.  The omission of improvements in valuing the real estate could not be corrected as this was merely an error in valuation.  Thus our opinion to the State Tax Commission dated July 19, 1940, was correct and the Tax Commission Ruling of March 2, 1944, referred to by the County Treasurer whose letter you enclosed, was in error.  SeeHammond Lumber Co. v. Cowlitz County, 84 Wash. 462, 147 Pac. 19 (1915) and seeWood Lumber Co. v. Whatcom County, 5 Wn. (2d) 63, 104 P. (2d) 912 (1940).

            However in 1951, the Legislature amended the "omitted property" section, RCW 84.40.080 (PTC sec. 183), to specifically provide

            "* * * Where improvements have not been valued and assessed as part of the real estate upon which the same may be located, as evidenced by the assessment rolls, they may be separately valued and assessed as omitted property under this section:  * * *" RCW 84.40.080 (PTC sec. 183)

            Limitations to this power, inapplicable here, are provided.  The primary duty is upon the assessor to properly correct the omission.

            However, pursuant to RCW 84.56.390 and 84.56.400 (PTC §§ 284 and 285), the county treasurer is required to call the attention of the County Board of Equalization meeting in April to instances where the county assessor

            "* * * hasomitted or made erroneous return of any property which is by law subject to taxation, * * *" (Emphasis Supplied)

            where re‑evaluation is not involved.

            In view of the 1951 amendment changing an unassessed improvement on land from a valuation into an "omitted property" situation, the County Board has the power to and should treat the error as one within its powers to correct.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General